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Green’s Functions
12.1 Onedimensional Helmholtz Equation
Suppose we have a string driven by an external force, periodic with frequency
ω. The diﬀerential equation (here f is some prescribed function)
_
∂
2
∂x
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
U(x, t) = f(x) cos ωt (12.1)
represents the oscillatory motion of the string, with amplitude U, which is tied
down at both ends (here l is the length of the string):
U(0, t) = U(l, t) = 0. (12.2)
We seek a solution of the form (thus we are ignoring transients)
U(x, t) = u(x) cos ωt, (12.3)
so u(x) satisﬁes
_
d
2
dx
2
+k
2
_
u(x) = f(x), k = ω/c. (12.4)
The solution to this inhomogeneous Helmholtz equation is expressed in terms of
the Green’s function G
k
(x, x
′
) as
u(x) =
_
l
0
dx
′
G
k
(x, x
′
)f(x
′
), (12.5)
where the Green’s function satisﬁes the diﬀerential equation
_
d
2
dx
2
+k
2
_
G
k
(x, x
′
) = δ(x −x
′
). (12.6)
125 Version of November 23, 2010
126 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
As we saw in the previous chapter, the Green’s function can be written down
in terms of the eigenfunctions of d
2
/dx
2
, with the speciﬁed boundary conditions,
_
d
2
dx
2
−λ
n
_
u
n
(x) = 0, (12.7a)
u
n
(0) = u
n
(l) = 0. (12.7b)
The normalized solutions to these equations are
u
n
(x) =
_
2
l
sin
nπx
l
, λ
n
= −
_
nπ
l
_
2
, n = 1, 2, . . . . (12.8)
The factor
_
2/l is a normalization factor. From the general theorem about
eigenfunctions of a Hermitian operator given in Sec. 11.5, we have
2
l
_
l
0
dxsin
nπx
l
sin
mπx
l
= δ
nm
. (12.9)
Thus the Green’s function for this problem is given by the eigenfunction expan
sion
G
k
(x, x
′
) =
∞
n=1
2
l
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx
′
l
k
2
−
_
nπ
l
_
2
. (12.10)
But this form is not usually very convenient for calculation.
Therefore we solve the diﬀerential equation (12.6) directly. When x = x
′
the
inhomogeneous term is zero. Since
G
k
(0, x
′
) = G
k
(l, x
′
) = 0, (12.11)
we must have
x < x
′
: G
k
(x, x
′
) = a(x
′
) sin kx, (12.12a)
x > x
′
: G
k
(x, x
′
) = b(x
′
) sin k(x −l). (12.12b)
We determine the unknown functions a and b by noting that the derivative of G
must have a discontinuity at x = x
′
, which follows from the diﬀerential equation
(12.6). Integrating that equation just over that discontinuity we ﬁnd
_
x
′
+ǫ
x
′
−ǫ
dx
_
d
2
dx
2
+k
2
_
G
k
(x, x
′
) = 1, (12.13)
or
d
dx
G
k
(x, x
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x
′
+ǫ
x=x
′
−ǫ
= 1, (12.14)
because 2ǫG
k
(x
′
, x
′
) → 0 as ǫ → 0. Although
d
dx
G
k
(x, x
′
) is discontinuous at
x = x
′
, G(x, x
′
) is continuous there:
G(x
′
+ǫ, x
′
) −G(x
′
−ǫ, x
′
) =
_
x
′
+ǫ
x
′
−ǫ
dx
d
dx
G(x, x
′
)
12.1. ONEDIMENSIONAL HELMHOLTZ EQUATION127 Version of November 23, 2010
=
_
x
′
x
′
−ǫ
dx
d
dx
G(x, x
′
) +
_
x
′
+ǫ
x
′
dx
d
dx
G(x, x
′
)
= ǫ
_
d
dx
G(x, x
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x
′
−ξ
+
d
dx
G(x, x
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x
′
+
¯
ξ
_
, (12.15)
where by the mean value theorem, 0 < ξ ≤ ǫ, 0 <
¯
ξ ≤ ǫ. Therefore
G(x, x
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x
′
+ǫ
x=x
′
−ǫ
= O(ǫ) →0 as ǫ →0. (12.16)
Now using the continuity of G and the discontinuity of G
′
, we ﬁnd two
equations for the coeﬃcient functions a and b:
a(x
′
) sinkx
′
= b(x
′
) sin k(x
′
−l), (12.17a)
a(x
′
)k cos kx
′
+ 1 = b(x
′
)k cos k(x
′
−l). (12.17b)
It is easy to solve for a and b. The determinant of the coeﬃcient matrix is
D =
¸
¸
¸
¸
sinkx
′
−sink(x
′
−l)
k cos kx
′
−k cos k(x
′
−l)
¸
¸
¸
¸
= −k sin kl, (12.18)
independent of x
′
. Then the solutions are
a(x
′
) =
1
D
¸
¸
¸
¸
0 −sink(x
′
−l)
−1 −k cos k(x
′
−l)
¸
¸
¸
¸
=
sin k(x
′
−l)
k sin kl
, (12.19a)
b(x
′
) =
1
D
¸
¸
¸
¸
sinkx
′
0
k cos kx
′
−1
¸
¸
¸
¸
=
sin kx
′
k sin kl
. (12.19b)
Thus we ﬁnd a closed form for the Green’s function in the two regions:
x < x
′
: G
k
(x, x
′
) =
sin k(x
′
−l) sinkx
k sinkl
, (12.20a)
x > x
′
: G
k
(x, x
′
) =
sin kx
′
sin k(x −l)
k sinkl
, (12.20b)
or compactly,
G
k
(x, x
′
) =
1
k sin kl
sin kx
<
sin k(x
>
−l), (12.21)
where we have introduced the notation
x
<
is the lesser of x, x
′
,
x
>
is the greater of x, x
′
. (12.22)
Note that G
k
(x, x
′
) = G
k
(x
′
, x) as is demanded on general grounds, as a conse
quence of the reciprocity relation (11.110).
Let us analyze the analytic structure of G
k
(x, x
′
) as a function of k. We see
that simple poles occur where
kl = nπ, n = ±1, ±2, . . . . (12.23)
128 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
There is no pole at k = 0. For k near nπ/l, we have
sin kl = sin nπ + (kl −nπ) cos nπ +. . . = (kl −nπ)(−1)
n
. (12.24)
If we simply sum over all the poles of G
k
, we obtain
G
k
(x, x
′
) =
∞
n=−∞
n=0
(−1)
n
sin
nπx<
l
sin
nπ
l
(x
>
−l)
nπ
l
(kl −nπ)
=
∞
n=−∞
n=0
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx
′
l
nπ
_
k −
nπ
l
_
=
∞
n=1
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx
′
l
1
nπ
_
1
k −
nπ
l
−
1
k +
nπ
l
_
=
∞
n=1
2
l
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx
′
l
1
k
2
−
_
nπ
l
_
2
. (12.25)
This is in fact equal to G
k
, as seen in the eigenfunction expansion (12.10),
because the diﬀerence is an entire function vanishing at inﬁnity, which must be
zero by Liouville’s theorem, see Sec. 6.5.
12.2 Types of Boundary Conditions
Three types of secondorder, homogeneous diﬀerential equations are commonly
encountered in physics (the dimensionality of space is not important):
Hyperbolic:
_
∇
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
u(r, t) = 0, (12.26a)
Elliptic:
_
∇
2
+k
2
_
u(r) = 0, (12.26b)
Parabolic:
_
∇
2
−
1
κ
∂
∂t
_
T(r, t) = 0. (12.26c)
The ﬁrst of these equations is the wave equation, the second is the Helmholtz
equation, which includes Laplace’s equation as a special case (k = 0), and the
third is the diﬀusion equation. The types of boundary conditions, speciﬁed
on which kind of boundaries, necessary to uniquely specify a solution to these
equations are given in Table 12.1. Here by Cauchy boundary conditions we
means that both the function u and its normal derivative ∂u/∂n is speciﬁed on
the boundary. Here
∂u
∂n
= ˆ n · ∇u, (12.27)
where ˆ n is a(n outwardly directed) normal vector to the surface. As we have
seen previously, Dirichlet boundary conditions refer to specifying the function
u on the surface, Neumann boundary conditions refer to specifying the nor
mal derivative ∂u/∂n on the surface, and mixed boundary conditions refer to
12.3. EXPRESSIONOF FIELDINTERMS OF GREEN’S FUNCTION129 Version of November 23, 2010
Type of Equation Type of Boundary Condition Type of Boundary
Hyperbolic Cauchy Open
Elliptic Dirichlet, Neumann, or mixed Closed
Parabolic Dirichlet, Neumann, or mixed Open
Table 12.1: Boundary conditions required for the three types of secondorder
diﬀerential equations. The boundary conditions referred to in the ﬁrst and third
cases are actually initial conditions.
specifying a linear combination, αu + β∂u/∂n, on the surface. If the speciﬁed
boundary values are zero, we say that the boundary conditions are homogeneous;
otherwise, they are inhomogeneous.
Example.
To determine the vibrations of a string, described by
_
∂
2
∂x
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
u = 0, (12.28)
we must specify
u(x, 0),
∂u
∂t
(x, 0) (12.29)
at some initial time (t = 0). The line t = 0 is an open surface in the (ct, x)
plane.
12.3 Expression of Field in Terms of Green’s
Function
Typically, one determines the eigenfunctions of a diﬀerential operator subject
to homogeneous boundary conditions. That means that the Green’s functions
obey the same conditions. See Sec. 11.8. But suppose we seek a solution of
(L −λ)ψ = S (12.30)
subject to inhomogeneous boundary conditions. It cannot then be true that
ψ(r) =
_
V
(dr
′
) G(r, r
′
)S(r
′
). (12.31)
To see how to deal with this situation, let us consider the example of the
threedimensional Helmholtz equation,
(∇
2
+k
2
)ψ(r) = S(r). (12.32)
130 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
We seek the solution ψ(r) subject to arbitrary inhomogeneous Dirichlet, Neu
mann, or mixed boundary conditions on a surface Σ enclosing the volume V of
interest. The Green’s function G for this problem satisﬁes
(∇
2
+k
2
)G(r, r
′
) = δ(r −r
′
), (12.33)
subject to homogeneous boundary conditions of the same type as ψ satisﬁes.
Now multiply Eq. (12.32) by G, Eq. (12.33) by ψ, subtract, and integrate over
the appropriate variables:
_
V
(dr
′
)
_
G(r, r
′
)(∇
′2
+k
2
)ψ(r
′
) −ψ(r
′
)(∇
′2
+k
2
)G(r, r
′
)
¸
=
_
V
(dr
′
) [G(r, r
′
)S(r
′
) −ψ(r
′
)δ(r −r
′
)] . (12.34)
Here we have interchanged r and r
′
in Eqs. (12.32) and (12.33), and have used
the reciprocity relation,
G(r, r
′
) = G(r
′
, r). (12.35)
(We have assumed that the eigenfunctions and hence the Green’s function are
real.) Now we use Green’s theorem to establish
−
_
Σ
dσ ·
_
G(r, r
′
)∇
′
ψ(r
′
) −ψ(r
′
)∇
′
G(r, r
′
)
¸
+
_
V
(dr
′
) G(r, r
′
)S(r
′
) =
_
ψ(r), r ∈ V,
0, r ∈ V,
(12.36)
where in the surface integral dσ is the outwardly directed surface element, and
r
′
lies on the surface Σ. This generalizes the simple relation given in Eq. (12.31).
How do we use this result? We always suppose G satisﬁes homogeneous
boundary conditions on Σ. If ψ satisﬁes the same conditions, then for r ∈ V
Eq. (12.31) holds. But suppose ψ satisﬁes inhomogeneous Dirichlet boundary
conditions on Σ,
ψ(r
′
)
¸
¸
r
′
∈Σ
= ψ
0
(r
′
), (12.37)
a speciﬁed function on the surface. Then we impose homogeneous Dirichlet
conditions on G,
G(r, r
′
)
¸
¸
r
′
∈Σ
= 0. (12.38)
Then the ﬁrst surface term in Eq. (12.36) is zero, but the second contributes.
For example if S(r) = 0 inside V , we have for r ∈ V
ψ(r) =
_
Σ
dσ · [∇
′
G(r, r
′
)]ψ
0
(r
′
), (12.39)
which express ψ in terms of its boundary values.
If ψ satisﬁes inhomogeneous Neumann conditions on Σ,
∂ψ
∂n
′
(r
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r
′
∈Σ
= N(r
′
), (12.40)
12.4. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONINSIDE A SPHERE131 Version of November 23, 2010
a speciﬁed function, then we use the Green’s function which respects homoge
neous Neumann conditions,
∂
∂n
′
G(r, r
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r
′
∈Σ
= 0, (12.41)
so again if S = 0 inside V , we have within V
ψ(r) = −
_
Σ
dσ G(r, r
′
)N(r
′
). (12.42)
Finally, if ψ satisﬁes inhomogeneous mixed boundary conditions,
_
∂
∂n
′
ψ(r
′
) +α(r
′
)ψ(r
′
)
_ ¸
¸
¸
¸
r
′
∈Σ
= F(r
′
), (12.43)
then when G satisﬁes homogeneous boundary conditions of the same type
_
∂
∂n
′
+α(r
′
)
_
G(r, r
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r
′
∈Σ
= 0, (12.44)
we have for r ∈ V
ψ(r) =
_
V
(dr
′
) G(r, r
′
)S(r
′
) −
_
σ
dσ G(r, r
′
)F(r
′
). (12.45)
12.4 Helmholtz Equation Inside a Sphere
Here we wish to ﬁnd the Green’s function for Helmholtz’s equation, which sat
isﬁes
(∇
2
+k
2
)G
k
(r, r
′
) = δ(r −r
′
), (12.46)
in the interior of a spherical region of radius a, with homogeneous Dirichlet
boundary conditions on the surface,
G
k
(r, r
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r=a
= 0. (12.47)
We will use two methods.
12.4.1 Eigenfunction Method
We know that the eigenfunctions of the Laplacian are
j
l
(kr)Y
m
l
(θ, φ), (12.48)
in spherical polar coordinates, r, θ, φ; that is,
(∇
2
+k
2
)j
l
(kr)Y
m
l
(θ, φ) = 0. (12.49)
132 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
Here j
l
is the spherical Bessel function,
j
l
(x) =
_
π
2x
J
l+1/2
(x), (12.50)
and the Y
m
l
are the spherical harmonics,
Y
m
l
(θ, φ) =
_
2l + 1
4π
(l −m)!
(l +m)!
_
1/2
P
m
l
(cos θ)e
imφ
, (12.51)
where P
m
l
is the associated Legrendre function. Here l is a nonnegative integer,
and m is an integer in the range −l ≤ m ≤ l. For example, the ﬁrst few
spherical Bessel functions (which are simpler than the cylinder functions, the
Bessel functions of integer order) are
j
0
(x) =
sin x
x
, (12.52a)
j
1
(x) =
sin x
x
2
−
cos x
x
, (12.52b)
j
2
(x) =
_
3
x
3
−
1
x
_
sinx −
3
x
2
cos x, (12.52c)
and in general
j
l
(x) = x
l
_
−
1
x
d
dx
_
l
sinx
x
. (12.53)
The associated Legrendre function is given by
P
m
l
(cos θ) = (−1)
m
sin
m
θ
_
d
d cos θ
_
l+m
(cos
2
θ −1)
l
2
l
l!
. (12.54)
For example, the ﬁrst few spherical harmonics are
Y
0
0
=
1
√
4π
, (12.55a)
Y
1
1
= −
_
3
8π
sin θ e
iφ
, (12.55b)
Y
0
1
=
_
3
4π
cos θ, (12.55c)
Y
1
1
=
_
3
8π
sin θ e
−iφ
, (12.55d)
Y
2
2
=
_
15
32π
sin
2
θ e
2iφ
, (12.55e)
Y
1
2
= −
_
15
8π
cos θ sin θ e
iφ
, (12.55f)
Y
0
2
=
_
5
16π
(3 cos
2
θ −1), (12.55g)
12.4. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONINSIDE A SPHERE133 Version of November 23, 2010
Y
−1
2
=
_
15
8π
cos θ sin θ e
−iφ
, (12.55h)
Y
−2
2
=
_
15
32π
sin
2
θ e
−2iφ
. (12.55i)
The eigenfunctions must vanish ar r = a, so if β
ln
is the nth zero of j
l
,
j
l
(β
ln
) = 0, n = 1, 2, 3, . . . , (12.56)
the desired eigenfunctions are
ψ
nlm
(r, θ, φ) = A
nl
j
l
_
β
ln
r
a
_
Y
m
l
(θ, φ), (12.57)
and the eigenvalues are
λ
ln
= −k
2
ln
= −
_
β
ln
a
_
2
. (12.58)
The normalization constant A
nl
is determined by the requirement that
_
r
2
dr dΩψ
nlm
(r, θ, φ)
2
= 1, (12.59)
where dΩ = sin θ dθ dφ is the element of solid angle. Since the spherical har
monics are normalized so that [Ω = (θ, φ) represents a point on the unit sphere]
_
dΩY
m
′
∗
l
′ (Ω)Y
m
l
(Ω) = δ
ll
′ δ
mm
′ , (12.60)
the normalization constant is determined by the requirement
A
nl

2
_
a
0
r
2
dr
_
j
l
_
β
ln
r
a
__
2
= 1. (12.61)
Now
_
a
0
r
2
dr j
l
(β
ln
r/a)j
l
(β
lm
r/a) = δ
nm
1
2
a
3
j
2
l+1
(β
ln
), (12.62)
which for n = m follows from the orthogonality property (11.68). So
A
nl
 =
_
2
a
3
1
j
l+1
(β
ln
)
, (12.63)
and the Green’s function has the eigenfunction expansion
G
k
(r, r
′
) =
nlm
2
a
3
1
j
2
l+1
(β
ln
)
Y
m
l
(Ω)Y
m∗
l
(Ω
′
)j
l
(β
ln
r/a)j
l
(β
ln
r
′
/a)
k
2
−(β
ln
/a)
2
, (12.64)
where Ω = (θ, φ), Ω
′
= (θ
′
, φ
′
).
134 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
This result can be simpliﬁed by carrying out the sum on m, using the addition
theorem for spherical harmonics,
4π
2l + 1
l
m=−l
Y
m∗
l
(Ω
′
)Y
m
l
(Ω) = P
l
(cos γ), (12.65)
where P
l
(cos γ) = P
0
l
(cos γ) is Legendre’s polynomial, and γ is the angle between
the directions represented by Ω and Ω
′
, or
cos γ = cos θ cos θ
′
+ sin θ sin θ
′
cos(φ −φ
′
). (12.66)
Then we obtain
G
k
(r, r
′
) =
2
a
3
nl
2l + 1
4π
P
l
(cos γ)
1
j
2
l+1
(β
ln
)
j
l
(β
ln
r/a)j
l
(β
ln
r
′
/a)
k
2
−(β
ln
/a)
2
. (12.67)
This leads us to the second method.
12.4.2 Discontinuity (Direct) Method
Let us adopt the angular dependence found above:
G
k
(r, r
′
) =
∞
l=0
2l + 1
4π
P
l
(cos γ)g
l
(r, r
′
), (12.68)
where we will call g
l
the reduced Green’s function. Because Y
m
l
is an eigenfunc
tion of the angular part of the Laplacian operator,
∇
2
Y
m
l
(Ω) = −
l(l + 1)
r
2
Y
m
l
(Ω), (12.69)
and the delta function can be written as
δ(r −r
′
) =
1
rr
′
δ(r −r
′
)δ(Ω −Ω
′
), (12.70)
we see that, because of the orthonormality of the spherical harmonics, Eq. (12.60),
the Green’s function equation (12.46) corresponds to the following equation
satisﬁed by the reduced Green’s function, the inhomogeneous “spherical Bessel
equation,”
_
d
2
dr
2
+
2
r
d
dr
−
l(l + 1)
r
2
+k
2
_
g
l
(r, r
′
) =
1
rr
′
δ(r −r
′
). (12.71)
We solve this equation directly. For (0 < r
′
< a)
0 ≤ r < r
′
: g
l
(r, r
′
) = a(r
′
)j
l
(kr), (12.72a)
r
′
< r ≤ a : g
l
(r, r
′
) = b(r
′
)j
l
(kr) +c(r
′
)n
l
(kr). (12.72b)
12.4. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONINSIDE A SPHERE135 Version of November 23, 2010
Only j
l
appears in the ﬁrst form because the solution must be ﬁnite at r = 0,
and the second solution to the spherical Bessel equation,
n
l
(x) =
_
π
2x
N
l+1/2
(x), (12.73)
where N
ν
is the Neumann function, is singular at x = 0. For example,
n
0
(x) = −
cos x
x
, (12.74)
and in general
n
l
(x) = −x
l
_
−
1
x
d
dx
_
l
cos x
x
. (12.75)
To determine the functions a, b, and c, we proceed as follows. The boundary
condition at r = a, g
l
(a, r
′
) = 0, implies
0 = b(r
′
)j
l
(ka) +c(r
′
)n
l
(ka), (12.76)
or
b(r
′
)
c(r
′
)
= −
n
l
(ka)
j
l
(ka)
. (12.77)
Thus we can write in the outer region,
a ≥ r > r
′
: g
l
(r, r
′
) = A(r
′
)[j
l
(kr)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr)j
l
(ka)]. (12.78)
The next condition we impose is that of the continuity of g
l
at r = r
′
:
a(r
′
)j
l
(kr
′
) = A(r
′
)[j
l
(kr
′
)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr
′
)j
l
(ka)]. (12.79)
On the other hand, the derivative of g
l
is discontinuous at r = r
′
, as we may
see by integrating Eq. (12.71) over a tiny interval around r = r
′
:
d
dr
g
l
(r, r
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r=r
′
+ǫ
r=r
′
−ǫ
=
1
r
′2
, (12.80)
which implies
ka(r
′
)j
′
l
(kr
′
) −kA(r
′
)[j
′
l
(kr
′
)n
l
(ka) −n
′
l
(kr
′
)j
l
(ka)] = −
1
r
′2
. (12.81)
Now multiply Eq. (12.79) by kj
′
l
(kr
′
), and Eq. (12.81) by j
l
(kr
′
), and subtract:
j
l
(kr
′
)
r
′2
= −kA(r
′
)j
l
(ka)[j
l
(kr
′
)n
′
l
(kr
′
) −n
l
(kr
′
)j
′
l
(kr
′
)]. (12.82)
Now j
l
, n
l
are the independent solutions of the spherical Bessel equation
_
1
r
2
d
dr
_
r
2
d
dr
_
−
l(l + 1)
r
2
+k
2
_
u = 0, (12.83)
136 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
the Wronskian of which,
∆(r) ≡ j
l
(kr)n
′
l
(kr) −n
l
(kr)j
′
l
(kr) (12.84)
has the form
∆(r) =
const.
r
2
, (12.85)
as we saw in Problem 4 of Assignment 8. We can determine the constant by
considering the asymptotic forms of j
l
, n
l
,
j
l
(kr) ∼
sin(kr −lπ/2)
kr
, kr ≫1, (12.86a)
n
l
(kr) ∼ −
cos(kr −lπ/2)
kr
, kr ≫1, (12.86b)
which imply
∆(r) =
1
k
2
r
2
[sin
2
(kr −lπ/2) + cos
2
(kr −lπ/2)]
=
1
(kr)
2
. (12.87)
Thus since the righthand side of Eq. (12.82) is proportional to the Wronskian,
we ﬁnd the function A:
A(r
′
) = −k
j
l
(kr
′
)
j
l
(ka)
, (12.88)
and then from Eq. (12.79) we ﬁnd the function a:
a(r
′
) = −
k
j
l
(ka)
[j
l
(kr
′
)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr
′
)j
l
(ka)]. (12.89)
Hence the Green’s function is explicitly
r < r
′
: g
l
(r, r
′
) = −k
j
l
(kr)
j
l
(ka)
[j
l
(kr
′
)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr
′
)j
l
(ka)], (12.90a)
r > r
′
: g
l
(r, r
′
) = −k
j
l
(kr
′
)
j
l
(ka)
[j
l
(kr)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr)j
l
(ka)], (12.90b)
or
g
l
(r, r
′
) = −kj
l
(kr
<
)j
l
(kr
>
)
_
n
l
(ka)
j
l
(ka)
−
n
l
(kr
>
)
j
l
(kr
>
)
_
, (12.91)
where r
<
is the lesser of r, r
′
, and r
>
is the greater.
From this closed form we may extract the eigenvalues and eigenfunctions of
the spherical Bessel diﬀerential operator appearing in Eq. (12.83). The poles of
g
l
occur where j
l
(ka) has zeroes, all of which are real, at ka = β
ln
, the nth zero
of j
l
, or
k
2
=
_
β
ln
a
_
2
. (12.92)
12.5. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONIN UNBOUNDEDSPACE137 Version of November 23, 2010
In the neighborhood of this zero,
j
l
(ka) = (ka −β
ln
)j
′
l
(β
ln
). (12.93)
But at the zero the Wronskian is
1
(β
ln
)
2
= −n
l
(β
ln
)j
′
l
(β
ln
). (12.94)
Now from the recursion relation
J
′
λ
(z) =
λ
z
J
λ
(z) −J
λ+1
(z), (12.95)
we see that the derivative of the spherical Bessel function (12.50) satisﬁes, at
the zero,
j
′
l
(β
ln
) = −j
l+1
(β
ln
). (12.96)
Thus the residue of the pole of g
l
at k = β
ln
/a is
1
a
2
β
ln
j
l
(β
ln
r
<
/a)j
l
(β
ln
r
>
/a)
j
2
l+1
(β
ln
)
. (12.97)
Now j
l
is an even or odd function of z depending on whether n is even or odd.
So if β
ln
is a zero of j
l
, so is −β
ln
, and hence if we add the contributions of
these two poles, we get the corresponding contribution to g
l
:
g
l
(r, r
′
) ∼
1
a
2
β
ln
j
l
(β
ln
r/a)j
l
(β
ln
r
′
/a)
[j
l+1
(β
ln
)]
2
_
1
k −β
ln
/a
−
1
k +β
ln
/a
_
. (12.98)
Summing up the contribution of all such pairs of poles, we obtain
g
l
(r, r
′
) =
2
a
3
∞
n=1
j
l
(β
ln
r/a)j
l
(β
ln
r
′
/a)
[j
l+1
(β
ln
)]
2
1
k
2
−(β
ln
/a)
2
, (12.99)
which is the eigenfunction expansion displayed in Eq. (12.67).
12.5 Helmholtz Equation in Unbounded Space
Again we are solving the equation
(∇
2
+k
2
)G
k
(r, r
′
) = δ(r −r
′
), (12.100)
but now in unbounded space. The solution to this equation is an outgoing
spherical wave:
G
k
(r, r
′
) = G
k
(r − r
′
) = −
1
4π
e
ikr−r
′

r −r
′

. (12.101)
138 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
This may be directly veriﬁed. Consider a small sphere S, of radius ǫ, centered
on r
′
:
_
S
(dr)(∇
2
+k
2
)G
k
(r −r
′
) ≈
_
S
(dρ)∇
2
ρ
_
−
1
4π
e
ikρ
ρ
_
=
_
dΩρ
2
d
dρ
_
−
1
4π
e
ikρ
ρ
_¸
¸
¸
¸
ρ=ǫ
→ 1, (12.102)
as ǫ → 0. Evidently, for r = r
′
, G
k
satisﬁes the Helmholtz equation, (∇
2
+
k
2
)G
k
= 0.
Alternatively, we may construct G
k
from the eigenfunction expansion (11.109),
G
k
(r −r
′
) =
n
ψ
∗
n
(r
′
)ψ
n
(r)
λ
n
−λ
(12.103)
where λ = −k
2
, λ
n
= −k
′2
, where the eigenfunctions are solutions of
(∇
2
+k
′2
)ψ
k
′ (r) = 0, (12.104)
that is, they are plane waves,
ψ
k
′ (r) =
1
(2π)
3/2
e
ik
′
·r
, (12.105)
Here the (2π)
−3/2
factor is for normalization:
_
(dk
′
) ψ
k
′ (r)
∗
ψ
k
′ (r
′
) = δ(r −r
′
), (12.106a)
_
(dr) ψ
k
′ (r)
∗
ψ
k
(r) = δ(k −k
′
), (12.106b)
where we have noted that the spectrum of eigenvalues is continuous,
n
→
_
(dk). (12.107)
Thus the eigenfunction expansion for the Green’s function has the form
G
k
(r −r
′
) =
_
(dk
′
)
(2π)
3
e
−ik
′
·r
′
e
ik
′
·r
k
2
−k
′2
. (12.108)
Let us evaluate this integral in spherical coordinates, where we write
(dk
′
) = k
′2
dk
′
dφ
′
dµ
′
, µ
′
= cos θ
′
, (12.109)
where we have chosen the z axis to lie along the direction of r − r
′
. The
integration over the angles is easy:
G
k
(r −r
′
) =
1
(2π)
3
_
∞
0
dk
′
k
′2
_
2π
0
dφ
′
_
1
−1
dµ
′
e
ik
′
r−r
′
µ
′
k
2
−k
′2
=
1
(2π)
2
1
2
_
∞
−∞
dk
′
k
′2
k
2
−k
′2
1
ik
′
ρ
_
e
ik
′
ρ
−e
−ik
′
ρ
_
, (12.110)
12.5. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONIN UNBOUNDEDSPACE139 Version of November 23, 2010

§¤
¦¥

• •
−k
k
Figure 12.1: Contour in the k
′
plane used to evaluate the integral (12.110).
The integral is closed in the upper (lower) halfplane if the exponent is positive
(negative). The poles in the integrand are avoided by passing above the one on
the left, and below the one on the right.
deﬁning ρ = r − r
′
, where we have replaced
_
∞
0
by
1
2
_
∞
−∞
because the inte
grand is even in k
′2
. We evaluate this integral by contour methods. Because
now k can coincide with an eigenvalue k
′
, we must choose the contour appropri
ately to deﬁne the Green’s function. Suppose we choose the contour as shown
in Fig. 12.1, passing below the pole at k and above the pole at −k. We close the
contour in the upper half plane for the e
ikρ
and in the lower half plane for the
e
−ikρ
term. Then by Jordan’s lemma, we immediately evaluate the integral:
G
k
(r −r
′
) =
1
(2π)
2
1
2
_
−
2πi
2k
k e
ikρ
iρ
+
2πi
−2k
k e
ikρ
iρ
_
= −
1
4π
e
ikρ
ρ
, (12.111)
which coincides with Eq. (12.101). If a diﬀerent contour deﬁning the integral
had been chosen, we would have obtained a diﬀerent Green’s function, not
one corresponding to outgoing spherical waves. Boundary conditions uniquely
determine the contour.
Note that
G
k
(r, r
′
) = G
k
(r
′
, r), (12.112)
even though G
k
is complex. The selfadjointness property (11.110) implied by
the eigenfunction expansion is only formal, and is spoiled by the contour choice.
140 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
12.6 Green’s Function for the Scalar Wave Equa
tion
The inhomogeneous scalar wave equation,
_
∇
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
ψ(r, t) = ρ(r, t), (12.113)
requires boundary and initial conditions. The boundary conditions may be
Dirichlet, Neumann, or mixed. The initial conditions are Cauchy (see Sec. 12.2).
Thus, we might specify at an initial time t = t
0
both ψ(r, t
0
) and
∂
∂t
ψ(r, t
0
) at
every point r in the region being considered.
The corresponding Green’s function G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) satisﬁes
_
∇
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) = δ(r −r
′
)δ(t −t
′
). (12.114)
It must satisfy the homogeneous form of the boundary conditions satisﬁed by
ψ. Thus, if ψ has a speciﬁed value everywhere on the bounding surface, the
corresponding Green’s function must vanish on the surface. In classical physics
it is customary to adopt as initial conditions
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
∂G
∂t
(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
_
= 0 if t < t
′
. (12.115)
These then deﬁne the socalled retarded Green’s functions. They ensure that
an eﬀect occurs after its cause. (In fact, however, this time asymmetry of the
Green’s function, which is not present in the wave equation, is not necessary;
and in fact it is impossible to maintain in relativistic quantum mechanics.)
With such a Green’s function, what takes the place of the selfadjointness
property given in Sec. 11.8? Since the second time derivative is invariant under
t →−t, we have in addition to the inhomogeneous equation (12.114)
_
∇
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
) = δ(r −r
′′
)δ(t −t
′′
). (12.116)
Multiply Eq. (12.116) by G(r, t; r
′
, t), Eq. (12.114) by G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
), subtract,
and integrate over the volume being considered, and over t from−∞to T, where
T > t
′
, t
′′
:
_
T
−∞
dt
_
V
(dr)
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)∇
2
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
−G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)∇
2
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
−G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
+G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
_
= −G(r
′
, −t
′
; r
′′
, −t
′′
) +G(r
′′
, t
′′
; r
′
, t
′
). (12.117)
12.6. GREEN’S FUNCTION FORTHE SCALAR WAVE EQUATION141 Version of November 23, 2010
Now use Green’s theorem, together with the corresponding identity,
∂
∂t
_
A
∂
∂t
B −B
∂
∂t
A
_
= A
∂
2
∂t
2
B −B
∂
2
∂t
2
A, (12.118)
to conclude that
G(r
′′
, t
′′
; r
′
, t
′
) −G(r
′
, −t
′
; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
=
_
T
−∞
dt
_
Σ
dσ ·
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)∇G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
−G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)∇G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
_
−
_
V
(dr)
1
c
2
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
∂
∂t
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
−G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
∂
∂t
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
_¸
¸
¸
¸
t=T
t=−∞
. (12.119)
The surface integral vanishes, since both Green’s functions satisfy the same
homogeneous boundary conditions on Σ. (The boundary conditions are time
independent.) The second integral is also zero because from Eq. (12.115)
G(r, −∞; r
′
, t
′
)
∂G
∂t
(r, −∞; r
′
, t
′
)
_
= 0, (12.120a)
since −∞< t
′
, and
G(r, −T; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
∂G
∂t
(r, −T; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
_
= 0, (12.120b)
since −T < −t
′′
. Thus the reciprocity relation here is
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) = G(r
′
, −t
′
; r, −t) (12.121)
How do we express a solution to the wave equation (12.113) in terms of the
Green’s function? The procedure is the same as that given earlier. The ﬁeld,
and the Green’s function, satisfy
∇
′2
ψ(r
′
, t) −
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
′2
ψ(r
′
, t
′
) = ρ(r
′
, t
′
), (12.122a)
∇
′2
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) −
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
′2
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) = δ(r −r
′
)δ(t −t
′
). (12.122b)
Note that the diﬀerentiations on G are with respect to the second set of argu
ments (this equation follows from the reciprocity relation). Again multiply the
ﬁrst equation by G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
), the second by ψ(r
′
, t
′
), subtract, integrate over
the volume, and over t
′
from t
0
< t to t
+
, where t
+
means t +ǫ, ǫ →0 through
142 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
positive values. Then for r ∈ V ,
_
t
+
t0
dt
′
_
V
(dr
′
)
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)∇
′2
ψ(r
′
, t
′
) −ψ(r
′
, t
′
)∇
′2
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
−
1
c
2
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
∂
2
∂t
′2
ψ(r
′
, t
′
) −ψ(r
′
, t
′
)
∂
2
∂t
′2
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
_ _
= −ψ(r, t) +
_
t
+
t0
dt
′
_
V
(dr
′
) G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)ρ(r
′
, t
′
). (12.123)
Now we again use Green’s theorem and the identity (12.118) to conclude
ψ(r, t) =
_
t
+
t0
dt
′
_
V
(dr
′
) G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)ρ(r
′
, t
′
)
−
_
t
+
t0
dt
′
_
Σ
dσ ·
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)∇
′
ψ(r
′
, t
′
) −ψ(r
′
, t
′
)∇
′
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
¸
−
1
c
2
_
V
(dr
′
)
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
0
)
∂
∂t
0
ψ(r
′
, t
0
) −ψ(r
′
, t
0
)
∂
∂t
0
G(r, t; r
′
, t
0
)
_
.
(12.124)
This is our result. The interpretation is as follows:
1. The ﬁrst integral represents the eﬀect of the sources ρ distributed through
out the volume V .
2. The second integral represents the boundary conditions. If, for example,
ψ satisﬁes inhomogeneous Neumann boundary conditions on Σ,
ˆ n · ∇ψ
¸
¸
¸
¸
Σ
= f(r
′
) (12.125)
is speciﬁed, then we use homogeneous Neumann boundary conditions for
G,
ˆ n · ∇G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
)
¸
¸
¸
¸
Σ
= 0. (12.126)
Then the second integral reads
−
_
t
+
t0
dt
′
_
Σ
dσ · G(r, t; r
′
, t)∇
′
ψ(r
′
, t
′
). (12.127)
That is, −ˆ n · ∇
′
ψ(r
′
, t
′
) represents a surface source distribution. Other
types of boundary conditions are as discussed earlier.
3. The third integral represents the eﬀect of the initial conditions, where
ψ(r
′
, t
0
),
∂
∂t
0
ψ(r
′
, t
0
) (12.128)
12.7. WAVE EQUATIONINUNBOUNDED SPACE143 Version of November 23, 2010
are speciﬁed. They correspond to impulsive sources at t = t
0
:
ρ
init
(r
′
, t
′
) = −
1
c
2
_
∂
∂t
0
ψ(r
′
, t
0
)δ(t
′
−t
0
) +ψ(r
′
, t
0
)δ
′
(t
′
−t
0
)
_
. (12.129)
We verify this statement by integrating by parts, and letting the lower
limit of the t
′
integration be t
0
−ǫ.
12.7 Wave Equation in Unbounded Space
We now wish to solve Eq. (12.114)
_
∇
2
−
1
c
2
∂
2
∂t
2
_
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) = δ(r −r
′
)δ(t −t
′
), (12.130)
in unbounded space by noting that then G is a function of R = r −r
′
and
T = t −t
′
only,
G(r, t; r
′
, t
′
) = G(r −r
′
, t −t
′
) = G(R, T). (12.131)
Then we can introduce a Fourier transform in space and time,
g(k, ω) =
_
(dR) dTe
ik·R
e
−iωT
G(R, T). (12.132)
The Fourier transform of the Green’s function equation is (we have set c = 1
temporarily for convenience),
(−k
2
+ω
2
)g(k, ω) = 1, (12.133)
where we write k
2
= k · k, which has the immediate solution
g(k, ω) =
1
ω
2
−k
2
. (12.134)
Thus the Green’s function has the formal representation
G(R, T) =
_
(dk)
(2π)
3
dω
2π
e
−ik·R
e
iωT
1
ω
2
−k
2
. (12.135)
The ω integral here is not well deﬁned until we impose the boundary condition
(12.115)
G(R, T) = 0 if T < 0. (12.136)
This will be true if the poles are located above the real axis, as shown in Fig. 12.2.
Here the contour is closed in the upper half plane if T > 0, and in the lower half
plane if T < 0. In both cases, by Jordan’s lemma, the inﬁnite semicircle gives
no contribution. We have
_
∞
−∞
dω
2π
e
iωT
1
(ω −k)(ω +k)
=
_
i
_
e
ikT
2k
−
e
−ikT
2k
_
, T > 0,
0 T < 0.
(12.137)
144 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
 
• •
−k +iǫ k +iǫ
Figure 12.2: Contour in the ω plane used to evaluate the integral (12.135).
Thus, if T > 0,
G(R, T) =
1
(2π)
3
_
∞
0
k
2
dk 2π
_
1
−1
dµe
−ikRµ
i
2k
_
e
ikT
−e
−ikT
_
=
i
(2π)
2
_
∞
0
k dk
2ikR
_
e
ikR
−e
−ikR
_ _
e
ikT
−e
−ikT
_
=
1
(2π)
2
1
2R
1
2
_
∞
−∞
dk
_
e
ik(R+T)
+e
−ik(R+T)
−e
ik(R−T)
−e
ik(T−R)
_
=
1
2π
1
2R
[δ(R +T) −δ(R −T)] . (12.138)
But R and T are both positive, so R + T can never vanish. Thus we are left
with
G(R, T) = −
1
4π
1
R
δ(R −T), (12.139)
or restoring c,
G(r − r
′
, t −t
′
) = −
1
4π
1
r −r
′

δ
_
r −r
′

c
−(t −t
′
)
_
. (12.140)
The eﬀect at the observation point r at time t is due to the action at the source
point r
′
at time
t
′
= t −
r −r
′

c
. (12.141)
Physically, this means that the “signal” propagates with speed c.
12.7. WAVE EQUATIONINUNBOUNDED SPACE145 Version of November 23, 2010
Let us make this more concrete by considering a simple example, a point
“charge” moving with velocity v(t) =
d
dt
r(t),
ρ(r, t) = qδ(r −r(t)). (12.142)
There are no eﬀects from the inﬁnite surface, nor from the inﬁnite past, so we
have from Eq. (12.124)
ψ(r, t) =
_
t
+
−∞
dt
′
_
V
(dr
′
) G(r −r
′
, t −t
′
)ρ(r
′
, t
′
)
= −
q
4π
_
t
+
−∞
dt
′
1
r −r(t
′
)
δ
_
r −r(t
′
)
c
−(t −t
′
)
_
. (12.143)
If we let R(t
′
) = r −r(t
′
), the distance from the source to the observation point
at time t
′
= t −
R(t
′
)
c
, we write this as
ψ(r, t) = −
q
4π
_
t
+
−∞
dt
′
1
R(t
′
)
δ
_
R(t
′
)
c
−(t −t
′
)
_
. (12.144)
Let τ = R(t
′
)/c +t
′
, where τ = t determines the “retarded time” t
′
so
dτ = dt
′
_
1 +
1
c
dR
dt
′
_
, (12.145)
where
dR
dt
′
=
1
2R
d
dt
′
R· R = −
R· v
R
, (12.146)
that is
dτ = dt
′
_
1 −
R· v
Rc
_
. (12.147)
Thus the ﬁeld is evaluated as
ψ(r, t) = −
q
4π
_
t+R(t)/c
−∞
dτ
R(τ)
1
_
1 −
R·v
Rc
_
(τ)
δ(τ −t)
= −
q
4π
1
R(t) −R(t) · v(t)/c
. (12.148)
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